review – Borderlands 3

I’m not a fan of 1st person shooters all that much. I’m not saying there’s a correlation between those games and real life violence, I just don’t want to be reminded of real life violence that we live in. I played a game recently had had giant robots in it but you pov was still in the military and gunning down enemy soldiers with realistic sounding machine gun sounds as your victims rush to the aid of their comrades – why did you animate that?

Give me goofy guns that shoot toxic hamburgers as the baddies cry out “remember my name, it’s – (death gurlge)” and there you go, guilt of gunning people down over. Oh good, Borderlands 3 has arrived.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Borderlands 2. RwC Jesse says I should put “Borderlands 2 squad leader” on my resume and I don’t think he’s wrong. Even the sophomoric jokes are stupidly funny. It’s an exponential improvement over Borderlands 1, which seems tame, clunky, and drab by comparison. The levels are brilliantly designed, the weapons have consistent characteristics by their in-game manufacturers, and the character-based powers and powerups are well thought out. The Pre-Sequel is more of the same, though not much more, but I still enjoyed it.

What does the long awaited Borderlands 3 have to offer? A new voice for Claptrap? (eww) Not the same writer from Borderlands 2? (meh) A game developer CEO accused of harassment among other financial-based improprieties? (Eww Eww Eww) Well, I’m still not sure what’s entirely different, but it doesn’t feel the same either. The gameplay is there, meaning the shootin’ along with a good combination of character based specialties. Do the jokes land? Not nearly as much. Is there more variety of cool and insane weapons? If there is, I haven’t found it yet, but then again I’m “only” through my 2nd playthrough, and if I started a 2nd game, it can’t have been that bad.

Here’s some in game observations:

-Seems like less is more, but not in this case. I have not seen the variety that I’m used to. Granted, it took a while before I noticed just how big the scope of weapons in BL2 was. Yet, there were some noticeable omissions in the catalog of weapons by manufacturer. Hyperion didn’t have handguns? No Tediore rocket launchers? No Vladof SMGs???

-Tediore rules in this game. They’re the ones who have guns that get thrown as grenades when you run out of ammo. The added bonus is finding the ones that have legs that allow them to chase down your target while still shooting. What a hilarious sight. Other effects from this brand are pretty handy if not moreso.

-Atlas guns are back from the first game and, with the exception of some of the rifles, are pretty crappy, despite all featuring a targeting system. Of course, a lot of these brands & their weapons take a while to figure out to use effectively. Vladof sometimes have a 2nd function, such as rockets or tesla tazers. Rifles are more fun to use in this game than previous game entires.

-Speaking of the tazers, where are the tesla grenade mods? The grenade mods are a huge disappointment. This was the actual first thing I was looking for through most of the gameplay, and at nearly every level (I think I finished the game at 40? 42?) they were all pretty much the same, with ‘bouncing’ options allowing for increased damage with each bounce. The singularity mods, which were super helpful in BL2, seemed tamer with a limited range. However, though they’d pick up just one or two nearby characters, they’d also pick up an explosive barrel to collide into the baddie, for a kill and epic hilarity.

-The game starts off in a few parts of Pandora (setting for BL1 & 2) and it’s reminiscent of many of the levels in BL1: chaotic and with quickly respawning enemies. Like, I just cleared the area for the mission, why did you allow for the area to respawn with the enemies who typically show up in this area? Seriously. The levels gets better but the respawning is kind of ridiculous.

-Character power levels – there’s now three skill tree options for the Vault Hunter, with various other enhancements, but I don’t know if it’s an improvement. There was ONE skill with three tree options, by comparison, in the other games.

-There are some BULLET SPONGES. Dear lord, and if you get killed (by accident, falling off the platform you’re shooting from) and you respawn and they’re fully healed and you are just going to run out of ammo again despite none of their attack ever putting you in super danger…what’s the point?

That’s some of the stuff running through my mind through the first play. Below are spoilers as I get into a bit of the meaty meats:

Okay, BL3 should stand on its own without being compared to BL2, and I’ve read and watched reviews knocking the story. Well, I’m here to say (deep sigh) the story’s not that bad. Actually, the villainous twins? Yeah, they’re jerks, they’re obnoxious, but they are in fact bad guys. They’ve created a cult for all the enemies to band together under. You miss Handsome Jack’s smugness but you have a bit of weariness from two awful people who are trying to control an army of murderous morons, who dislike them probably more than you do. And I did laugh a lot. The First Vault Hunter kiosks hidden in most of the levels became my prioritized search. A lot of the enemy/bandit quotes are consistently funny. It’s a high bar, they didn’t meet it, but there’s some good stuff in here.

HOWEVER,

…going back to BL2, and somewhat repeated in The Pre-Sequel, there’s some brilliant story beats that BL3 doesn’t come close to or bothering repeating. The first is, well, the beginning. In BL2, you watch the characters get nearly killed off in the opening cinematic. (It’s sort of implied if you’re playing solo you’re the only one of the four Vault Hunters featured, or any others on the train, who survived.) Your tutorial is walking around after Claptrap practically digs you out of the wreck, and you crawl because you’re so badly injured. Way to start with nothing!

There’s another bit about a 3rd of the way in, maybe a little more, where the town of Sanctuary is being bombarded by Hyperion forces and Sanctuary is teleported into the sky to safety. You, their champion? Not so much. It’ll be a few levels of new types of bad guys & creatures you’re not used to fighting without access to Marcus’ weapons kiosks (at least not with weapons near your character level) or your ‘bank’ of extra guns you were holding on to or upgrades to carry more ammo etc.

There’s nothing like that in BL3, and not even the friendly NPC deaths as part of the story have the weight that BL2’s had. I mean, you already killed off the one black guy, why’d you have to kill off two of the women? Why not any of the male characters? Why not Brick or Mordecai? Or Zero? Okay, so Lillith realizes she’s the only one with the power to stop an apocalyptic event. Okay, maybe (cringe) as part of the story the twins need Maya’s phase bubble to seize Pandora’s moon. But…why’d ya kill off Maya? The BEST playable character in the entire series, as far as I’m concerned.

The BL series treated its characters like any good series does, with the realization that you have this potential Simpsons Springfield size cast to write around and have show up in every ‘episode’ doing something. You’d think that Brick & Mordecai would know better than to serve at the reckless whim of Tina but they do because Mordecai’s reluctance & Brick’s enthusiasm for it are funny. Is it because there wasn’t that much for Maya to write around, other than she’s back at her own monastery to wait until you show up and assist you then? I don’t know. It just felt like “well let’s kill off a character” moment and I didn’t care for it.

I at least finished the game, and other than those moments, I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I’ll keep playing or if I’ll get the DLC. I will recommend this: doing a play through with your top level character assisting someone online who is at a lower level. The loot that drops is at YOUR level too, and you can pick up some kick ass weapons that your character ‘outgrew’ later in the game. I got a Torgue atomic laser rifle and it’s the best thing. There’s also a ‘legendary’ shield that drops a 60% shield booster when you get hit, so you basically refill your shield almost immediately – I ended up using a level 27 through the rest of the game.

Then when you finish you find that you’ve unlocked mayhem mode. Weapons that drop from overpowered enemies have some unique modifiers depending on who your character is or how you have your vault hunter skill set, so it’s kind of extra work to remember how to attack with it. The baddies are relentlessly more difficult, with more heavies (think Goliaths but who aren’t stupid and jump and have seriously wide and far range weapons) at every corner. Expect to die a lot more, is what I’m saying. Thankfully, you can turn it off when you’re back on the ship. Why not just play on the True Vault Hunter mode? I just want to backtrack and find this or that that in a previous level.

Okay, that’s it. Pretty good game. I might not play it all that much unless I’m playing with a group. I still have Zelda: Breath of The Wild to play, and it’s a far more charming and fun game.

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